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Quartet In Autumn Paperback – Unabridged, 20 Aug 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Paperback, Unabridged, 20 Aug 2004
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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; 1 edition (20 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330326481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330326483
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,433,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Barbara Pym's unpretentious, subtle, accomplished novels . . . are for me the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past 75 years...spectacular (Sunday Times)

Barbara Pym has a sharp eye for the exact nuances of social behaviour (The Times)

The wit and style of a twentieth century Jane Austen (Harpers & Queen)

Very funny and keenly observant of the ridiculous as well as the pathetic in humanity (Financial Times)

A spare masterpiece of loneliness in retirement (Telegraph)

Quartet in Autumn is immeasurably her finest work of fiction (Evening Standard)

An alert miniaturist ... her novels have a distinctive flavour, as instantly recognisable as lapsang tea (Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'No novelist brings more telling observation or more gentle pleasure' Jilly Cooper --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer reviews

Top customer reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You either love or loathe Barbara , I think. I love her. The sharp, dry humour is cleverly disguised as comment. She obviously has great affection for the type of person she depicts but is not above noticing their peculiarities either. In this book the characters may seem a little one-dimensional but we should ask ourselves why this is. The ending leaves a distinct question for us to ponder but unlike many stories that end in this way I didn't find it awkward or unsatisfactory. Physically the books are quite short so it's worth trying one especially at the price. The covers in this series are a bit unattractive and could easily lead one to think that the books are dry and dreary. There is an advantage to this, though, as the lack of any illustration doesn't plant any kind of picture in one's mind. These are grown up books for grown up people who appreciate subtlety and a story related in good English.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read this book some years ago and loved it. I was pleased to find it available on Kindle. On rereading it I found more depth to the plot. It's very amusing, though there is also sadness to be read into the lives of the characters. What will they do when they are no longer needed in the office?
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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Letty, Marcia, Norman and Edwin all work together in an office dealing with unspecified paperwork. Marcia has had a major operation and she and Letty are about to retire, leaving Norman and Edwin working. The style of writing is subtle and understated and the characters mildly eccentric -Marcia keeps well washed empty milk bottles in her garden shed. All four will be changed irrevocably by the end of the book.
The story deals with issues we must all face at some point in our lives. Loneliness, independence, being used and using. The minor characters are well realised - Mrs Pope - who Letty lodges with; Father G the priest with whom Edwin is friends; Marjorie who would like Letty to live with her if there are no better alternatives; and Janice - the social worker - who visits Marcia with the best of intentions.
Four people growing old and dealing with life's slings and arrows in the only way they know how. Of the four Letty is perhaps the most likeable, striving as she does to keep the peace, realising by the end of the book that Marjorie is not the best friend she could have and finding the courage to make her own choices. All four will stay in your mind long after you have finished reading. I shall definitely be looking for more books by Barbara Pym. If you like Anita Brookner you will enjoy this - Barbara Pym has the same acute eye for all the facets of everyday life.
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Format: Paperback
While it's true that this final novel has little of the high comedy that made her earlier works popular its elegaic tone is note-perfect.

The winding down of work and life for Letty, Marcia, Norman and Edwin is described with a skill that makes them unforgettable if not wholly likeable. Letty is pleasant but self-effacing and ineffectual, Edwin's involvement with the Church and clergy is tellingly at odds with his attitude to his marriage and family while Norman is an 'angry little man' always happy to point out the fly in anybody's ointment. Marcia is and always has been odd and gets odder still when she is released from the constraints of employment and its forced social contacts until she simply comes to a stop.

I am in my fifties and don't know how this period piece would strike younger readers but it does give a real flavour of the times as well as the personalities. Do these people still exist as types? Undoubtedly, although their context might have changed. (I would like to be a Letty but fear I am a Marcia with dogs replacing milk bottles).

As previous reviewers have stated, there's little plot, no romance and hardly any action - so why read it? Because it's a perfect example of a beautifully-crafted miniature portrait. And you'll love it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very well written book. Little depressing but quite up to Barbara Pym's acutely observed behaviour of Homo Sapiens.
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Format: Paperback
A bittersweet novel about growing older in an England which seems to have almost entirely vanished. Miss Pym's characters are often sad, sometimes eccentric, but always engaging. Anyone who likes gentle humour and nostalgia will like this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
"The position of the unmarried, unattached, ageing woman is of no interest whatever to the writer of modern fiction." Pym contradicts this belief of one of her own characters in her novel "Quartet in Autumn".

It focuses on the lives of four characters in their sixties who have worked together for years in an office. They have never socialised out side of work hours and there are gaping holes in their knowledge of each other - because they keep things to themselves, and it would not be polite to ask. Marcia has had an operation, but only Lettie knows it was a mastectomy, and only Letty knows that Marcia has a crush on her surgeon.

From the outside it seems that their lives are quite dull and uneventful. They don't really like the company of others, and are not able to communicate their loneliness. Often being around someone is irritating for them and they prefer to be alone.

No-one really knows what their jobs entail, and when Marcia and Letty retire, they are not replaced, in fact the whole department is due to be phased out, leaving them feeling insignificant. They become cut off from one another.

The main theme of the novel is considering whose responsibility it is to care for those who are alone and incapable of caring for themselves. It is also about the awkwardness of inviting colleagues to become friends, the propriety which prevents it, and the realisation that family is who you choose to invite into your life, not just blood relatives.

The main characters share family sized jars of coffee and family sized tins of biscuits in the office. They are the closest acquaintances that they have, yet they don't see themselves as friends. They are alone, together.
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